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             Gestalt Thérapie 

What is Gestalttherapie ? Little history

The term Gestalttherapy refers to a direction of psychotherapy founded in the United States in the late 1940s, which primarily aims to strengthen contact and perception in the here and now.

The basic theoretical work Gestalt Therapy was written by German emigrant psychoanalyst Fritz Perls (1893-1970), psychologist Ralph Hefferline (1910-1974) and social philosopher and writer Paul Goodman (1911-1972) with the collaboration of psychoanalyst Lore Perls (1905-1990), written and published in 1951. The link with youth protest (Paul Goodman) and hippie culture (Fritz Perls) in the 1960s led to the popularization of Gestalt therapy, but also the reputation of having something to do with dropouts. In the meantime, Gestalt therapy has found the connection with clinical-psychological discussion and research.


The term "Gestalt" refers to the Gestalt psychology which developed in Austria and Germany at the end of the 19th century and whose main representatives (including Wolfgang Köhler, Kurt Lewin, Kurt Goldstein) fled the Nazis to the United States in 1933. Gestalt psychologists treated the processes of perception and described them as a holistic process: in the context of all that can be perceived by the senses, meaningful, formed units, which result from interests and prior knowledge of the perceiver. The founders of Gestalt therapy used these findings and asked what psychological mechanisms lead people not to form concise Gestalts and what therapeutic interventions should look like to get them back to good Gestalt formation.


How can past events impact the present moment?
According to Gestalt therapy, problems with Gestalt formation can arise, for example, if what is currently perceived is overlaid by previous experiences. Then we no longer perceive what is there, but rather what we hope for or fear. What has been experienced or “learned” in the past is projected into the present. Two examples of such projections:

1. Someone had a bad experience with a manager in the past and faces a manager again. He will now see all his fears vis-à-vis confirmed superiors.

2. Someone has had bad experiences with desired sex in the past. This person will then have a hard time keeping track of the uniqueness of a new person they meet. The danger is that she will be overwhelmed by her fears from past experience.

By focusing on perception, Gestalt therapy contradicts the fixation on the past (birth trauma, early childhood phases) and turns to the present (the "here and now").
Gestalt therapy is an active relationship between client and therapist. The therapeutic conversation itself is the field of experimentation, on which therapists invite clients, of their perception and contact behavior as well as to explore possible problem areas.
And how do Gestalt therapists do that? They let their clients” (therapeutically) work, that is, they support them in such a way that they can explore their problems and find solutions. According to the understanding of Gestalt therapy, it is not for therapists to find "right" solutions for clients or with design for the client, it is for the client to find the 18 solutions for him- even that correspond to his life, his body and his experiences.

What characterizes the practice of a Gestalt therapist?
One of the characteristics of the Gestalt therapist is to be present and involved in a rigorous posture which is based on the awareness, from moment to moment, of what is happening in the session with his patient. The Gestalt therapist accompanies the person so that they too acquire and develop this consciousness.

Let's take an example: a client tells us about a difficult experience he had with his boss during a meeting: "He spoke to me in a way that I find disrespectful... But... all that is not very important, it's about being smarter than him"

He accompanies his saying by wringing his hands. The therapist could then intervene by pointing out what he is doing with his hands and inviting him to explore the sensation and possible emotion associated with it, or he could say: "You think it is 'be smarter than him…I can imagine, however, that what you've been through is difficult…'

Through this intervention, the therapist invites the patient to be attentive to the sadness or anger that he usually does not consider.

In this space, from encounters to encounters, by exploring together the situations of his past life which are always painful and those of the present source of difficulties, a relationship will be forged where the person will experience new ways of apprehending the world and of gradually adjust to the multiple experiences of life, with the feeling of “taking or resuming one's life in hand”.

What is a Gestalt therapy session like? This text was produced by the Société Française de Gestalt.
The sessions take place face to face and the therapist dialogues with his patient. The first time a person comes to consult, the Gestalt therapist explores their request with them, clarifies them and answers their questions. Then, it establishes the framework of the therapeutic relationship: rhythm and duration of the sessions, duration, price, respect of the appointments and modalities of the end of therapy. All this information is given to the patient during the first session. If the therapist and the person consulting agree, the therapeutic work can begin.

The person is welcomed as they are, with their areas of fragility and insecurity without judgment or reference to a model of behavior. The therapist invites his patient to express everything that is present for him: what occupies his thoughts, his concerns, his moods, an intuition, a feeling, a sensation, a dream, a happy experience, a satisfaction experienced, or a situation: his work, his family, a film he has seen, etc. Everything serves as a working basis for the therapist who will help his patient become aware of the different facets of his experience, to set his representations in motion, to gradually recognize and welcome their sensations and emotions, to identify their "need or aspiration of the moment", then to find new forms of interaction with their environment.

Throughout the therapeutic work, the patient becomes aware that by mobilizing his resources, he benefits from greater freedom and greater autonomy in his life choices.

Fritz Perls Portrait.jpg
Paul Goodman book.jpg
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